Case Study: Art and Design Teacher - Mary

What do you do?

As faculty head of art design technology, I'm in charge of eight other members of staff that teach art and design, ceramics, textiles, food, graphics, resistant materials, electronics and systems control.

I am also head of art, so I organise the art curriculum, and I'm a classroom teacher.

What is your background?

I wanted this job because I've always wanted to be a teacher, and I know that's a strange thing to say, but it's true.

I got this job after completing my O levels [now GCSEs], A levels, college course and then a degree. Then I had to do a PGCE in art education. I had to do this because, as a freelancer, I wasn't making enough money after doing my degree.

I soon found out after doing my PGCE course that teaching was definitely what I wanted to do, and I applied for a job at this school as a general art teacher.

I have a degree in textiles and fashion. I don't have a degree in art, but I have a PGCE in art education. My background is that of textile designer and embroiderer, by that I mean industrial embroidery - computerised embroidery design. And many of my designs and my logos are on sale currently and have been in Mamas and Papas, and Marks and Spencer.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in your job?

I'd say the main quality you need is to be organised. You also need to be able to work with all types of people, whether you like them or not - including teachers and pupils.

You need to take on board other people's personalities and qualities. Obviously, there are going to be some colleagues or characters in your class that won't want to do what they need to do. You need to try and find ways of persuading, encouraging and motivating these people to do what you want them to do, and enjoy it in the end.

What other jobs could you do using the skills from this job?

Well, being a teacher, you have to be a good communicator. I'd say every skill you possess as a teacher is transferable to any job you want to do and, I suppose, if you don't like teaching you can always get out of it.

I would say you can use good communication skills in absolutely any job, whether you want to be a police officer, a nurse, a doctor, a lawyer, anything. But to be honest, if you can't communicate, aren't organised and are not willing to work hard, perhaps teaching isn't for you.

What changes will there be in the future?

As a teacher, you have to write your schemes of work and with things happening and changes happening all the time, you constantly have to rewrite things to make sure you are meeting all the government requirements.

What are the technological advances in this job? Well, computers. When I first started to teach, I couldn't use a computer, as in a laptop, as in a keyboard, as in just using a normal Microsoft Office document.

The only thing I was good at was embroidery, but with time and technological advances, I've got over this, learning with the pupils at the same time.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

I'd say the biggest challenge every day is that everything seems to come to you all at once - while teaching, while sorting out a problem, and covering a lesson for a colleague.

Take it all on board, take a deep breath and try to get through it. You can't do everything at once; remember this. If it takes a week, it takes a week. If it takes an hour, it takes an hour. But don't give up; just keep going at it.

Are there many opportunities to enter this career?

There are some fantastic art colleges around and there are some very, very good art teachers always being produced because the jobs are not there in other areas of work.

What do you like about your job?

I'd say the best part of my job is watching somebody arrive at 11 years old, watching them through all their education, and even being part of that education, and then seeing them leave at 16 with their GCSEs, going to college, going to art college, then getting on to a degree course.

Of my past pupils, I've taught someone who's gone on to be a fashion designer in New York, another who worked as a stained glass designer in Chichester Cathedral, and someone who's now a typographer for BMW, obviously all earning lots more money than a teacher!

Knowing that I'm part of that, and hopefully helped them on their way, is satisfying.

What do you dislike about your job?

To be honest, the worst thing is the administration. There seems to be a lot more administration work now in this job.

Everything needs to be written down and used and stored. There just seems to be more paperwork than the actual teaching aspects of this job.

Now, I'm sure it's going to change eventually, but at the moment it seems more paperwork than enjoyment.

What are your ambitions?

My ambition - I've only just become head of faculty of art design technology. I'm going to give myself two more years doing this.

Then, hopefully, I'm going to apply for a deputy headship in a school and then, hopefully, by the time I'm 40, start applying for a head teacher [post].

I've always wanted to be a head teacher and I would like to retire a rich head teacher.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

If you are really interested in this, you need not to be afraid of hard work. You need to commit a whole lot of energy into it.

Teaching is not something that you can just get on with and then leave and put down. It's constant; you need to be at it every single day of your life and, to be honest, summer holidays, Christmas holidays and Easter holidays, they're not the holidays, that's where you catch up. You need to be prepared for hard work if you're going to be a teacher.

If you think you're right for this job and would like to try [it] out to see what happens, why don't you contact a school close to you and ask if you can go and watch what happens in a classroom, with one teacher in that area that you're interested in, and actually see whether you could put up with it? And I do mean put up with it, because sometimes it's difficult.

A day in the life

7:45 am - 8:30 am

Arrive at school, check pigeonhole and collect paperwork. Go to my classroom and check new emails. Add to my list of what needs to be done today, this week, etc. Catch up on emails and administration, and make phone calls.

8:30 am - 8:40 am

My form start arriving into the classroom. Have a general chat with them and sort out any problems.

8:40 am - 9:00 am

Tutor time. Take the register, give out information (cricket match today), sign homework diaries, etc. Today, pupils take part in a role-play of how to behave and how not to behave in a classroom (positive behaviour policy).

9:00 am - 10:00 am

Lesson 1 (should have been Year 11 Art, but they have left to do GCSE exams). Invigilate in exam hall for a GCSE exam. I need to be present and cannot complete any work during this time.

10:00 am - 11:00 am

Lesson 2 (first part of a double lesson of Year 9 Textiles).

First double in a series of seven double lessons. Give introduction to what fabric is and how it's made and decorated. Give demonstration of how to block print. Pupils start to design and then start to block print.

11:00 am - 11:20 am

Break. Make coffee (get to drink half of it), make phone calls to parents and send emails to colleagues.

11:20 am - 12:20 pm

Lesson 3 (second part of a double lesson of Year 9 Textiles).

Pupils continue to complete design work and block printing; some pupils add colour to their design. Set homework, due in next week.

12:20 pm - 1:00 pm

Lunch. Catch up with paperwork, make more phone calls. Several of my tutor group and other pupils want to complete homework or coursework for art and textiles, so there are constant interruptions from pupils asking for help while I try to complete my work and eat lunch at the same time.

1:00 pm - 1:10 pm

Tutor time. Catch up with all that's happened since the morning. Give out letter for forthcoming workshops.

1:10 pm - 2:10 pm

Lesson 4 (Year 7 Art).

First lesson to design six murals/mosaics for the front of school to celebrate our school's Artsmark Gold Award and Performing Arts College status, and the newly refurbished front of school.

2:10 pm - 3:10 pm

Lesson 5 (Year 10 Art).

Observational drawings. Pupils finish off their pine cone studies and start an A3 sheet of six views of a shell using a variety of media. Give homework reminder of a 3D sculpture of natural form that's due in next week.

3:10 pm

End of school.

3:10 pm - 4:10 pm

Art workshops open for completion of art or textiles homework and coursework.

4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Staff meeting - curriculum development group (arrive ten minutes late due to my workshop).

5:30 pm - 6:00 pm

Go back to my classroom. Tidy the room, ensure all equipment is ready for tomorrow and leave for home.

6:25 pm

Arrive home. Most evenings after school, I complete one to two hours of administration work.

I don't mark class work/homework or prepare for lessons in school time; this is all completed at home over the weekend (approximately four to eight hours) to ensure I keep my head above water.

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